Update 24 Feb 2021: Joe Biden was expected to end the H1B travel ban by issuing an executive order but he has only lifted the ban for Family Green card applicants and not work visas.
- As per the executive order signed by Biden, it revokes section 1 of proclamation 10014 and 10052 travel bans. The work visa holder ban is part of section 2 and hence still stays active.
- Section 1 deals with family green card, diversity lottery and other such immigrant visas.
People who had high hopes from Biden from the high skilled community have lost hopes. The current H1B, L, and J visa ban will continue until Mar 31, 2021.
Earlier in Dec 2020, Trump had extended for H1B workers till Mar 31, 2021.
- H1B and L workers are finding it difficult to get an interview appointment at US embassies as they are still closed or working at lower capacity due to local COVID restrictions.
- Dropbox Appointments are available if you are eligible.
USA H1B Travel Ban Rules App >
US embassy is issuing H4, L2, and J2 visas if they are open or they have given an emergency appointment. The new visas issued during the travel ban period have the annotation as:
“NIE UNDER P.P. ON RISK TO LABOR MARKET“.
See this sample H4 visa issued by US embassy in India on 31 July 2020:
This article will discuss:
Ban Term: June 24, 2020 to Mar 31, 2021 mid-night 11:59 PM ET.
Trump signed the executive order to ban work visa holder entry to the United States on June 22, 2020.
J visa holders who are an intern, trainee, teacher, camp counselor, au pair, or summer work travel program are banned.
Can I Travel? Check using App
USA H1B Travel Ban Rules App >
#1 Currently outside the USA without a valid visa stamp
Travel ban on the entry until Mar 31, 2021. The Visa application will not be approved even if the US embassy reopens until the entry ban is active.
The embassy will issue form 221g to hold visa issuance until the ban is active.
US citizens can travel but the ban language is not clear about H4 + US citizen combination.
The State travel department clarified on July 16 that dependents of H1B, L1, and J1 can apply for H4, L2, and J2 visa if primary is currently in the US.
#2 Currently outside the USA with a valid visa stamp
You can enter the USA with a valid stamped visa. If you travel outside the USA, you can return if you have a valid stamped visa.
#3 H-1B lottery
(OPT, F1 to H1B and other cases – 2020-21 season starting Oct 1, 2020)
- Currently, Outside USA – You cannot enter the US until the ban is active. A visa stamp will not be issued even if the US embassy reopens. The application will be kept in form 221g admin processing.
- Currently inside the USA – Not affected if you filed as a change of status. If you have applied in consular processing, you can file the H1B amendment with change-of-status after Oct 1.
#4 H1B extension, transfer, amendment, change of status
- Currently inside the USA – People currently inside the US are safe. USCIS will approve extension, transfer, amendment, or COS as usual.
- Currently outside the USA – You can file the extension, transfer, amendment petition with USCIS but will not get visa approval from the US embassy to travel till the ban is active. The embassy will issue form 221g until the ban is active.
#4 i485 AOS, i485 EAD, Green Card Applications
You can enter the US with a valid Green card. You can travel and return to the US too.
The travel ban affects the pending green card applications outside the USA.
- Currently, inside the USA – Green cards will be approved.
- Currently, outside the USA – Green cards may not be approved until the order stays Active. NVC may not schedule an interview appointment until the ban is active.
I-130, i140, PERM, EB-1, EB-2, EB-3 are not affected by travel ban.
#5 Diversity Visa
- Currently, outside the USA – Your visa will not be issued. You cannot enter the US until you have a stamped visa.
- Currently, inside the USA – You are safe
USCIS, US Embassy Rules
Travel.state department confirmed that a new visa will not be issued for the visa types mentioned in Trump’s proclamation.
- US Embassy will issue Form 221g: The US embassy in Singapore and India (All consulates including Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, etc.) have told that they will issue form 221g denials until the ban is active for any pending and new visa applications.
- USCIS officially announced that the order will not affect people currently working in the US on H1B, L1, L2, or J1 visas. Extensions and renewals can be filed as usual with USCIS.
H1B Visa for Non Members (of Lawsuit)
You should check with your employer to know if they are a member of this litigation. Your employer will need to write it on the official letterhead and then you need to take it to your H1B visa interview.
The Visa officer will verify and if your employer is part of this litigation, you are considered eligible for getting an H1B visa and traveling to the USA during the travel ban period.
You have to follow State Travel department guidelines:
- H1B/L1 can apply for a visa if you are still working for the same H1B/L1 employer, same job role, and position for whom you were working in the USA before your travel.
- If you filed an H1B transfer or an amendment after June 22, 2020, and now want to return to the US, then, you are not allowed until the ban is active.
- H1B/L1 technical specialist or senior manager and satisfy at least 2 of these (depends on consular officer discretion and rules are complex):
- If you can work and are working remotely from outside the USA, you are not eligible to travel. (tough for IT jobs to prove).
- You are a senior-level employee who is vital to the management and success of the overall business enterprise.
- Your salary exceeds the prevailing wage rate by at least 15 percent. (can be satisfied if you have a good salary).
- You have a doctorate or professional degree along with many years of relevant work experience. (probably an Einstein).
- If your H1B employer will face financial hardship, or cannot continue its business, or a delay to the employer’s ability to return to its pre-COVID-19 level of operations without your services. (quite difficult to prove!).
- Employees of companies who are part of the H1B lawsuit.
- Existing stamped H1B, J-1, L-1 visa holders are allowed to enter the US.
- Dependent visa holders like H4, L2 are allowed to travel if their primary spouse is already in the US. Interestingly, H4 EAD and L2 EAD are not affected at all.
- H1B extension, transfer, amendment, change of status for people who are already in the US will not be affected.
- Jobs in Food Production (farm workers) using the H2B visa and supply chain.
- Healthcare professions – Anybody working in a medical profession or a health care company and directly involved in treating COVID-19 patients. Example: A doctor or a nurse.
Effects on India EB2 Queue
The Employment-based visa bulletin moved the dates for EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 faster than ever in Oct 2020 visa bulletin.
The chances are very good for a family-based green card spillover in Oct 2021 as well if the US embassies stay closed until the COVID-19 cases keep rising.
The family green cards will not be issued till the ban is active end and these may accumulate and spillover in Oct 2021 again into employment-based queues.
I have shared my estimates on EB2 Indian prediction page.
MigrationPolicy estimates that this work visa travel ban will affect at least 219,000 workers who will not be allowed to enter the US labor market even if their work petition has been approved legally by USCIS.
Dropbox should be allowed as it appears from the executive order language but you will be issued a form 221g until the ban is active.
Check your Dropbox eligibility.
You can file the H1B amendment with a change of status as soon as Oct 1 if you have got the H1B lottery approval with consular processing.
CBP officer at the Canadian border confirmed that the AVR process is not affected by Trump’s travel ban order.
i140 and PERM are not affected. You can file them normally and get approval too.
They are going to pause the approvals of the green card (immigrant visa) issuance by the US embassy.
The i485 AOS (adjustment of status) will continue to be approved as usual if you are in the US.
H4 visa can be issued by the US embassy if the primary H1B is already in the USA.
This will be based on the visa officer’s discretion though.
The executive order has given the authority to US embassy interviewing officers to use their own discretion in these kinds of cases.
H4 EAD has not been banned or revoked in Trump executive order.
L2 EAD can also work normally.
You can apply H4 EAD and L2 EAD normally while you are in the USA.
F-1 students, OPT, STEP OPT, TN, B1/B2, E-3, O-1 visa are not affected by Trump’s travel ban.
You can use an old employer’s valid visa stamp to enter the US even if you have changed the employer after H1B transfer.